Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another Blood Drive, Another Pint Of Something Good

I gave blood again today, as I’ve been doing since 1976. I started because my boss at Steak n’ Shake said we could go donate without clocking out, which means I probably got paid $3 for the time it took. Plus, there were free cookies, so I was hooked.

Today's visit was at a local school, where students gave hand-made thank you cards to donors. Although it was crowded today, only about 6 percent of the US population has my blood type, O-, which is the “universal red cell donor,” according to the Red Cross, so I figure I’m pretty likely to save lives every time I donate. And since less than 10 percent of the US population donate blood (some sources say it is closer to 3 percent), like Bob Dylan says, “I guess it must be up to me.”

I’ve never smoked or drank alcohol or used drugs stronger than Certz with Retsyn, and I can answer all those sex questions on the application favorably, so I figure my blood is safe for whoever gets it. How could I not donate?

Like a lot of good things that we know we ought to do, giving blood isn’t always convenient, and there is a measure of pain involved. I mean, when they rip off that tape and it pulls the hairs off your wrist – ouch!

If you are one of the 90 percent who do not donate, perhaps you should reconsider. If you are old enough and healthy enough, why not take an hour and save some lives.

Monday, February 27, 2012

As Frasier Crane Says, I Love Opera And I Vote

Replace “Opera” with “The Monkees ” and I feel just like Frasier.

While the thought of having yet another election year upon us fills me with dismay, I am thankful for two things.

One, I don’t get television, so I can pretty well avoid much of the hostility and lies that permeate American politics. I don’t mind politicians being hostile and lying. It’s the (so-called) journalists and *&^$#@!! relentless commentators that repel me.

Two, I get to vote. Small though my voice may be, I have a say in the outcome, a rare privilege in much of the world. I can't wait.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Saturday Side Show - Exercise

We can talk about life and happiness and family and fulfillment all we want, but it’s moot without good health. Ask anyone who hasn’t survived a stroke or a heart attack.

Part of our experience must be the realization that in the long run, health overrides all else, and that our commitment to maintaining good health is as vital as any endeavor, especially once we reach a certain age. Like 12.

Which brings us to The Saturday Side Show.

Every Saturday, I’ll post a message or two that will not stay strictly within the bounds of my personal experience, but will focus on health and physical well-being, diet and nutrition, family relationships, humor, and, maybe sometimes, spiritual fulfillment, from some of my favorite sources.

What better place to start than with exercise.

Exercise has seldom been part of my routine, because when you play basketball twice a week, tennis three times a week, ride a bike most days, there really isn’t time for exercise. But I’ve gotten away from it for a few years, and it’s time to start again.

My motivation is a wonderful book called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by Dr. John Ratey, who says that the purpose of exercise is to keep our brains young and strong. Any benefit to the body is a mere side-effect.

Jim Rohn says that if you can’t do 5 pushups, do 1 until you can do 5. Then do 5 until you can do 10, and so on. I’m ashamed to admit that I can’t do 5 pushups. I can do 2, and it hurts both shoulders. But I’m going to do 1 until I can do more.

I’ll let you know when I hit 5 and then 10 and again when I reach 50.

Why don’t you pick an exercise goal and let us know how you do. Your brain and I will thank you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cupcakes Just One More Sign That We Are, In Fact, Headed To You Know Where In A Handbasket (Probably A $200 Longaberger Basket)

I’m sorry to offend anyone, especially the good folks at Longaberger. Don’t get me wrong. I like cupcakes as much as anyone, and I like my wife Kelly’s pumpkin cupcakes more than anyone.

But these new stores that sell nothing but cupcakes are too much. There is something wrong, wrong, wrong with this, something ethically and morally and emotionally and financially wrong.

Our town has apparently just opened a cupcakery, and Kelly wants to go. If it’s anything like Gigi’s Cupcakes, which we visited in Memphis, then I want no part of it. Gigi’s is a delightful little shop, run by delightful and dedicated women, and the cupcakes are mighty tasty, but they are cupcakes – cupcakes! – cupcakes that sell for $4 each. Each! Four dollars! For a cupcake.

Now, lest you pass me off as some kind of beast or barbarian, let me explain. Four dollars for a two-ounce cupcake is $32 a pound. That’s more than breakfast cereal. That’s more than lobster, more than mercury. You could buy two ounces of silver for that. You could buy 10 gallons of gasoline - for the price of a dozen cupcakes.

But it’s not just the money. It’s the idea, the notion, the attitude that there isn’t something horribly wrong with spending $4 for a cupcake. That’s why gas costs so much. That’s why medical care costs so much. Companies keep raising the price because we keep paying it.

Anyone who spends $5 for a coffee and another $4 for a cupcake, well, they’re the problem. They are exactly what’s wrong with America.

Don’t you agree?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Were Elvis And John Lennon As Happy As You?

Elvis would have been 76, and John Lennon would have been 71. All these years later, we still listen, we still care.

While both were hugely successful commercially, I don’t know that either of them was especially happy. We went to Graceland for Elvis Week last year, and while we marveled at his awards and his costumes and his palace, I walked away with only a feeling of loneliness, of isolation, of a sad man-child lost in or hiding behind a caricature of the what people thought of him.

Obviously not John Lennon, but Kevin Mantegna playing
the Beatle with Liverpool Legends in Branson, Missouri.

Lennon, on the other hand, spent much of his last ten years trashing the work he had done with that little band of his. The party line is that he was a happy house husband for the five years following his second son’s birth, but many accounts describe his day-to-day existence as grim and lonely, tortured by dark fame, drugs and loss of self-esteem.

It is hard to believe that either man enjoyed his celebrity, and the money didn’t seem to buy anything but more distance from who they really were.

Both Elvis and John Lennon appear on the annual lists of top-earning dead celebrities, but I suspect they both would resent it.

I wonder if they would have pursued their paths had they known where they would end. I wonder if they would have preferred a life of contentment in anonymity, like most of us. Like me.

What do you think? What would you do?

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Word In Your Ear

Like some of you, perhaps, I used to wish I had been born 10 years earlier, so I could have been part of the music scene I just missed, the rise of all my favorites: Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson. But now, with the fantastic audio technology we have today, I'm happier than ever to be alive. The irony is that I rarely listen to music anymore.

I have 86 audio books, not counting the cassettes, 50 of which are in my iTunes library. I have apps on my iPhone that link me into many, many more - hundreds of titles, most for no charge. I can easily move from A Christmas Carol to Anne of Green Gables to As A Man Thinketh to The Psychology of Achievement to Ben Stein's How to Ruin Your Life.

I listen to them all the time when I'm alone: when I shave and shower, when I iron my shirts, when I clean the kitchen, when I drive by myself.

Every day I have those delightful moments of inspiration and motivation and education, when the best thoughts of others stick in my head and make me a better teacher, a better husband, a better man - all while doing other things.

Today I'm listening to Lonesome Dove , my favorite book, which at 36 hours is not enough. I just finished Made to Stick and Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. A wonderful lecture on rhetoric was a recent favorite, plus a couple of Michael Crichton novels, and a used, 18-disc copy of All the King's Men, which I got for $4 at a flea market.

Our credits restock in a couple of days. My wife recently finished Water for Elephants, The Help, and The Kitchen House, and is today listening to Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

I have The Dream of Reason and Richest Man in Babylon queued up in my library, as well as a David Baldacci novel.

Maybe I did miss out on being nothing but a hound dog hanging out at the soda shoppe with Little Susie after school, but I sure enjoy the immediacy and convenience of audiobooks.
As Jim Rohn says, miss a meal if you have to, but don't miss a book.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

How about you? What are you listening to these days?

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